Big Decision Making in Relationships
When faced with a big decision in your marriage, it can sometimes feel like when Alice in Wonderland comes to the crossroads on her path. There are so many signs pointing left, right, up, and down saying, “This way,” “Wrong way,” and even “Go back!”
So what is the right choice for you and your marriage? Is there more than one right choice? What if you make the wrong decision?!
Fortunately, we are here to help you and your spouse navigate decision making in your marriage.
In marriage, there are day-to-day decisions and choices that may not have a huge impact on your relationship or life. These include things like what to eat for dinner or choosing an outfit for date night.
However, life is great at throwing us BIG decisions such as moving, buying a house, having another baby, or whether or not to try for a new job. These are the times in life when you need to learn to work together with your spouse to choose the best decision for your marriage and family.
What is the Decision Making Process?
When faced with big decisions, it is important to have all of the information. The decision making process aids you in gathering all of the relevant details and helpfully organizing them. Not only do you gather information in support of what you want, but also opposing material for alternative choices.
The decision making process usually consists of several steps. Check out the steps below to help you with problem-solving in your marriage.
- Determine the decision you are trying to make. Obviously, there is a big decision you and your spouse need to make in your marriage. What is it? Are you wondering whether to have another child or not? Are you feeling the urge to move your family to a different location? Identify the decision, and write it down.
- Collect needed information. This information can be sought from outside sources, but it is also important to consider your feelings.
- For example, suppose you and your spouse feel the need to buy a house. In that case, important external information could include looking at your finances and deciding what you could afford for a mortgage payment or checking interest rates for your area.
- Internal reflection is also imperative. How do you feel about buying a house? Does it make you excited, or does it make you feel worried that you may not be able to make the payment? This is essential information for making decisions.
- Identify alternatives or cons to your decision. What are the cons to your decision? Would adding another mouth to feed to your family really stretch your finances to a breaking point? Maybe moving to a new location would be too stressful for your child, who already has trouble with anxiety. Write down all of the alternatives to your decision.
- Review your pros and cons. Take all of the relevant information, and go through each scenario, whether it be positive or negative. You might find that you favor certain decisions over others.
- Make a decision. After weighing all of your decisions, it’s time to make a choice. You might be surprised to find that your original choice may have changed. You could also find a compromise between choices as well. Maybe you have decided to buy a house, but not right away. You may decide to save up for another year to help put you in a better financial situation.
- Act on it! Now that you have made your decision, it is time to take action! Did you decide to sell your house? Call the real estate agent, and get a “For Sale” sign up in your yard. Are you going to try for a new job? It’s time to spruce up your resume.
Decision Making in Marriage
Now that we have covered the problem-solving process, it’s time to apply these tips to making decisions with your spouse. Although it can be difficult to make a large decision on your own, adding another person into the mix can make the process even more challenging. After all, you are each your own person with differing thoughts and opinions. So how do you deal with problem-solving in your relationship?
Amy, from Freshly Married, suggests that “Making decisions together as a married couple is like a three-legged race with your spouse.” Think about being in a three-legged race. Your middle legs are tied together, the race starts, and you begin stumbling with your partner, most likely a little out of rhythm. Amy compares this to decision making in your marriage.
In the first part of marriage, couples usually try to figure out how to live and work together. But, she states that eventually, “you come up with a strategy of how to walk jointly and make it to the finish line. This kind of race requires arms around each other, holding each other up for balance and support!” Don’t you just love that? What a great analogy!
Problem-solving and making big decisions in marriage need to be approached in a similar but slightly different way than you would when making a decision on your own. After all, you wouldn’t want one spouse making all of the big choices in your marriage, right?
Navigating big life decisions in your relationship doesn’t have to be a battle between you and your spouse. When done correctly and with love for your spouse, decision-making can help you grow together as a couple. In their article, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott suggest several ways to help you make strong decisions together. Some of these ideas include:
- Be willing to hear your spouse’s opinions. This is essential, especially when your spouse’s viewpoint differs from your own.
- For example, let’s imagine that you want to add another child to your family, but your husband is not on the same page. He doesn’t want another baby at the moment, and that might hurt. However, it is important to hear your husband out. Maybe his reasons behind his opinion are points you have not considered.
- Practice honesty with your spouse. Agree with your spouse to be honest and open about your opinions. If you don’t express all of your feelings on a subject, chances are you may come to unfairly resent your spouse. You may blame your spouse for making a big decision that was really important to you. Get it all out in the open!
- Go over all of the pros and cons. This comes after gathering all of the relevant information, and examining all of your feelings on the subject. Don’t dismiss your spouse’s opinions on the subject, but go through each pro and con scenario together.
- Ask how this will affect your marriage in the long run. Is this going to change your entire lives? For better or worse? Think about your children and how it might affect them as well. Do you see this decision as a potential problem down the road?
- Compromise, if needed. Maybe you don’t see eye-to-eye on this big decision. How do you deal with that? Be open to compromising with your spouse. Find ways to make this a choice you can both live with. Do you want to buy a house, but your wife doesn’t like the neighborhood you have chosen? Work together to find a house in a neighborhood that suits you both.
- Commit to your decision and stand by your spouse. Not all decisions end up being the right choice for your family. That is one of the great things about life. You get the chance to learn from your mistakes or poor decisions. What if this ends up being the case in your marriage? Support your spouse and your joint decision. It is essential that you “make sure that you and your partner are on the same page that the decision is something both of you decided, so you won’t spend the next five years blaming each other for it.” Will you have to tweak your plan or decision along the way? Probably. But it is important that you and your spouse are committed to being a team in your decision making.
What to do about indecision
Making big decisions in marriage can be especially difficult when one spouse or both struggle with indecisiveness. Indecisiveness ultimately stems from fear. Fear of making the wrong choice, fear of letting down your loved ones, fear of having to live with negative consequences.
In her article, Farnoosh Brock claims there is only one question to ask yourself when you are feeling indecisive– “What’s better: a life of mistakes or a life of procrastination?” Are you going to just sit and wait for life to happen to you? Or are you going to make life happen? This idea is absolutely empowering!
Letting go of your fear is the first and biggest step in letting go of your indecisiveness. It is crucial for you to identify what is holding you back. What are you actually afraid of? Write it down, and talk about it with your spouse. Then, you can work together to find solutions to your fears.
For example, consider that you and your husband are considering moving to a new place for a new job position. Think about and identify your fears. Are you afraid of having to make new friends? Are you worried about how the move will affect your finances? Maybe you are concerned that your child will fall behind in a new school. Identify your fears, write them down, and talk it over with your spouse. Come up with solutions or plans to work through your fears.
Moving Forward with your decisions
Making big decisions with your spouse can be scary, frustrating, and difficult, but it doesn’t need to be. With these tips, you can learn to trust yourself and your spouse in making these big life decisions.
Could you and your spouse make the wrong choice? Certainly, but when you do, it can be a beautiful growing experience for your relationship. By working together and trusting one another, you can tackle any big decisions life throws at you.
So, go out there and make life happen!
- 8 ways to make a strong decision together. SYMBIS Assessment. (2015, July 23). https://www.symbis.com/blog/8-ways-to-make-a-strong-decision-together/
- Amy. (2018, January 30). Decision-making: The three-legged race in marriage. Freshly Married. https://freshlymarried.com/decision-making-the-three-legged-race-in-marriage/
- Brock, F. (2019, August 28). How to end the agony of indecision: The One question to ask. Prolific Living. https://www.prolificliving.com/end-agony-of-indecision/
- Dartmouth, U. of M. (n.d.). Decision-making process. UMass Dartmouth. https://www.umassd.edu/fycm/decision-making/process/
- Smith, S., Smith, S., & Sylvia Smith (2019, October 14). Ways to make a strong decision together. Marriage Advice – Expert Marriage Tips & Advice. https://www.marriage.com/advice/relationship/ways-to-make-a-strong-decision-together/